Chipotle has experienced huge success marketing itself as a healthier alternative to traditional Mexican fast food, such as Taco Bell, by offering fresh ingredients and hormone-free meats.
But is it really healthier?
We did a side-by-side comparison of similar burritos at both chains and discovered that Chipotle’s massive portions — if eaten in one sitting — are weighing down its burritos with more than double the calories, carbohydrates, and grams of fat of Taco Bell’s.
We started our comparison with Taco Bell’s Supreme beef burrito, which comes with seasoned beef, beans, red sauce, lettuce, cheese, onions, tomatoes, and sour cream inside a flour tortilla.
We crafted a similar burrito using Chipotle’s nutrition calculator. We included steak, black beans, tomatillo-red chilli salsa, lettuce, cheese and sour cream inside a flour tortilla.
The 865-calorie Chipotle burrito was estimated to weigh 13 ounces, compared to the 420-calorie, 8.5-ounce Taco Bell burrito.
While Chipotle’s burrito is twice the size of Taco Bell’s, it had nearly five times as much cholesterol. It had 36 grams of fat compared to the Taco Bell burrito’s 16 grams. So if you tend to eat your entire burrito, Taco Bell is the lower-fat and lower-cholesterol choice.
On a gram-per-gram basis, however, the maths is slightly different: Chipotle’s burrito has nearly 50% more fat per gram than Taco Bell’s and almost three times as much cholesterol. But it also has more than two times the protein on a per-gram basis and almost 50% more fibre than the Taco Bell burrito.
The differences between these two burritos can be traced back to the meat used. Taco Bell meat contains contains lots of fillers, so that could be what’s keeping the fat, protein, and cholesterol content of their burritos down.
Only 88% of the meat mixture is actually beef, according to Taco Bell. The rest is Taco Bell’s “Signature Recipe,” which includes artificial flavoring and colouring but probably less fat than real meat. This also means that Taco Bell’s meat might contain fewer nutrients than Chipotle’s steak would.
In general, nutritionists recommend eating less-processed foods. But for an occasional treat, maybe going with Taco Bell is better for your waistline.
Here’s the full breakdown for the Chiptole burrito:
And here’s the breakdown for the Taco Bell burrito:
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